Friday, 10 December 2010

India Joins fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) Project

Before the end of 2010, India and Russia are slated to sign the mega defence deal to jointly produce the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). The upcoming India visit of the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be the occasion where the Indo-Russian FGFA project will be signed besides other defence deals.

According to sources, the final draft of the agreement has been readied and the approval has to come from the Indian Finance Ministry. The Indo-Russian FGFA will be based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50, which flew for the first time this January in Siberia and it will be built to the Indian Air Force (IAF) specifications. Significantly, it is being touted as superior to the American F/A-22 `Raptor’, the world’s only operational FGFA as of now.

India will be getting a customised Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA and the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), as a co-developer, will enable the execution of the specifications laid down by the IAF. The FGFA project will see an estimated $6 billion investment by India. The finalisation of the contract for the joint production of the FGFA happened over five years ago and the project itself was conceived a decade back.

The production of the advanced jet fighter is a 50-50 joint venture between Russia and India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).The FGFA is being developed under Sukhoi’s PAK FA project.

According to an agreement signed in October 2007, India joined Russia in Sukhoi’s FGFA programme and the two countries will complete all procedures, finalising a commercial contract for the aircraft deal during Medvedev’s visit starting December 21. Apart from developing the FGFA, the two countries will also develop the Multirole Transport Aircraft together, of which the India is expected to order 45 for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The 30-tonne advanced FGFA will have very advanced avionics, stealth to increase survivability and enhanced lethality. The fifth generation fighters which India and Russia will jointly produce can outsmart sophisticated radars, take off from short airstrips and remain in the air longer than the current fighters with the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The FGFA will enter service in 2017 and its development cost will be shared between India and Russia. India will be responsible for supplying the plane’s navigation systems, mission computer, cockpit displays and will provide composites for the airframe. While the Russian Air Force has opted for a single-seater, the IAF will get a modified two-seater derivative. The IAF alone plans to acquire around 300 of the combat jets and the option to acquire more has been kept open.

As for the cost of the project to develop the FGFA, it will be to the tune of $8-10 billion and this will be shared by both India and Russia. Besides, each FGFA is priced around $100 million over and above the development cost.

The FGFA is a major leap for India as the first joint project with Russia where the Indian aviation industry, HAL, will be a full-fledged partner. The willingness of the Russians to settle for joint development of the FGF and of multi-role transport aircraft is a reflection of their faith in India’s technological achievements and its impressive track record consisting of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and the economical co-production of the BrahMos cruise missiles with Russia.

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